Roquefort cheese is a raw sheep's milk blue cheese made in southern France. Its signature blue marbling is produced by the Penicillium roqueforti fungus, a type of mold that is added to the milk early in the cheesemaking process.
- Made from: Sheep's milk
- Origin: Aveyron region of southern France
- Texture: Moist and crumbly
- Aging: 3 to 9 months
- Color: White to pale yellow
What is Roquefort Cheese?
Roquefort cheese has a moist, crumbly texture and a sharp, tangy, salty flavor. Its color is white to pale yellow, and it is marbled with the blue to blue-green mold that gives it its characteristic look and flavor. Roquefort cheese does not have a rind. Its flavors and aroma feature buttery, caramelly and smoky notes. If heated gently, Roquefort will melt, but high heat can cause it to separate.
The region around the village of Roquefort, in southern France near Toulouse, is known for its limestone cliffs and caves, and the grass and other plant life that grows there, and is eaten by the sheep that graze on it, strongly influences flavor of Roquefort cheese.
Roquefort cheese has DPO status, meaning that only cheeses from that specific geographical location can use the name Roquefort. Similar regulations apply to the fodder on which the sheep are fed and the caves in which the cheese is aged. The sheep, in turn, must be of the the Lacaune breed, which are native to the region.
How Roquefort Cheese is Made
To make Roquefort cheese, whole unpasteurized sheep's milk is heated to around 80 to 90 F, after which it is combined with rennet and salt. The resulting curds are then inoculated with the penicillium spores, and the mixture is allowed to rest for an hour or two. Next, the curd is gently cut into small pieces, the whey, or the liquid that separates fro the coagulated milk proteins, is drained, and the curds are transferred into round molds. The molds are turns several times, which allows the whey to fully drain away.
After spending several days in a dry salt bath, the cheeses are pierced with metal skewers, which allows oxygen to interact with the fungus spores, which is what produces the blue marbling.
Finally, the cheese is aged for 3 to 9 months, although most Roqueforts are fully ripened within 5 months.
As for the fungus itself, some cheesemakers use a liquid culture that is created in a lab, others, sprinkle a powder made from moldy bread into the curd, and some use a combination of methods.
If you can't find Roquefort cheese, you can substitute another blue cheese, ideally one that is also made from sheep's milk. But if you can't find that, you can certainly substitute any blue cheese. Gorgonzola is an Italian blue cheese made from cow's milk that comes close to the intensity of Roquefort. Stilton, an English blue cheese, is a bit milder in comparison. When substituting for Roquefort cheese, the most important thing is to substitute cheeses of approximately the same aging as the one your recipe calls for.
Roquefort cheese can be served as a table cheese, as a key part of a cheese platter, paired with fresh or dried fruits, nuts such as walnuts, hazelnuts and almonds, breads and crackers, or crumbled over salads. Roquefort dressing, made by combining a basic vinaigrette with mayonnaise, Worcestershire sauce and crumbled Roquefort cheese, was popularized in the early 20th century, and today's blue cheese dressings and dipping sauces continue the tradition.
Roquefort cheese works equally well as a pizza topping, in quesadillas, on sandwiches, in casseroles, as a topping for steaks and burgers, baked tarts, roasted vegetables, as a stuffing for everything from peppers to olives, and as the base for a cheese sauce for pasta and gnocchi.
The best way to store Roquefort cheese is to wrap it in the original foil packaging, and then add another layer of foil around it, and store it in the refrigerator, where it will keep for 3 to 4 weeks. You can also wrap it in parchment or wax paper and store it in the fridge. Remember to take it out of the fridge and let it come to room temperature for at least an hour before serving.
Roquefort Cheese Recipes
Enjoy Roquefort cheese in these recipes, or in any recipe that calls for blue cheese generally.
- Blue Cheese Stuffed Figs
- Blue Cheese Dressing
- Blue Cheese Stuffed Mushrooms
- Pear and Blue Cheese Salad
- Blue Cheese Pizza